What do you think of the poem And People Stayed Home

What do you think of the poem And People Stayed Home

A poem titled And People Stayed Home has been making the rounds because it resonates with what many people hope is an outcome of this lockdown.

The author of the poem has been referred to as a Kathleen O’Meara, an Irish-French Catholic writer and biographer during the late Victorian era, but that is incorrect. It was actually written by Catherine M. O’Meara. She published the poem on her website on 16 March 2020 titled In the Time of Pandemic (Politifact, The Poynter Institute, retrieved 30 April 2020).

In the Time of Pandemic is a beautiful poem. I really like it. It speaks to the large part of me that searches for the good in tough situations and tries to grow from them.

Although the poem is a lovely desired-for outcome, and one I would very much like to see happen, this won’t be everyone’s experience of lockdown. Psychiatrists and psychologists are already predicting that the coronavirus pandemic could have a ‘profound’ effect on people’s mental health and are calling for urgent research.

A woman is sitting on a chair and she looks sad. She is sitting near a window and outside the sky is blue and the sun is shining. Behind her her partner is saying, "It's hard hun, I know. Let's go for a walk while the sun is out." What is your experience of the pandemic like? Is it like the woman in this picture or something different. Read the blog and share what your experience is like in the comments.

So I was inspired to write an alternative poem

To show a different reality people may be experiencing at this time. I think it’s important that the many different experiences people are having during this lockdown are recognised and acknowledged.

You can read the original poem here. I recommend you read that first.

I really like the poem some people are referring to as And People Stayed Home but is actually called In the Time of Pandemic by Catherine O’Meara. It seems to show the show the benefits #lockdown can have. But not everyone will… Click To Tweet

An alternative poem to And People Stayed Home / In the Time of Pandemic

To Find Some Kind of Normality Again

The people were told to stay at home.

They felt caged and out-of-sorts.

So they binged on Netflix and snacked,

drank wine and wore pajamas (a lot),

struggled to home school,

lost their jobs,

and felt anxiety like never before.

Someone switched off the news

someone cursed

someone cried

someone lost hope.

The people began to wonder what it’s all for.

And the people became worried and depressed.

And in the absence of people who could lift them up,

hopeful, empathetic, kind,

even the earth began to feel the weight.

And when the lockdown ended

and people could gather again

feeling dazed and numb

and they wondered what life could bring them now

and dreamt of the life they once had

and struggled to make sense of everything

and so gathered with what felt like long-lost friends to drink wine

to find some kind of normality again.

The picture is of the poem Barbara Babcock of Return to Wellness wrote as a response to the poem And People Stayed At Home, otherwise known as In The Time of The Pandemic by Catherine O'Meara. Here is the poem: The people were told to stay at home. They felt caged and out-of-sorts. So they binged on Netflix and snacked, drank wine and wore pajamas (a lot), struggled to home school, lost their jobs, and felt anxiety like never before. Someone switched off the news, someone cursed, someone cried, someone lost hope. The people began to wonder what's it all for. And the people became worried and depressed. And in the absence of people who could lift them up, hopeful, empathetic and kind, even the earth began to feel the weight. And when the lockdown ended, and people could gather again, feeling dazed and numb and they wondered what life could bring them now, and dreamt of the life they once had, and struggled to make sense of everything, and so gathered with what felt like long-lost friends to drink wine to find some kind of normality again.

A note

In using similar language as the author of In the Time of Pandemic, i.e. ‘someone’, ‘and in the absence of people’, ‘and the earth began’, I want to pay homage to what felt like the rhythm of that poem. And to provide a response to it, an alternative view of how people may be experiencing lockdown.

I want to stress that in no way do I mean this as any form of disrespect to the author of In the Time of Pandemic or her work. As I mentioned above, I really like the poem she wrote.

Make your contribution to the nation’s mental health

Researchers at University College London are conducting a research project about your psychological and social experiences during this period of the coronavirus pandemic. You can find out more and take part here.

This kind of research helps to take the psychological pulse of the nation during the pandemic to understand the effects on the nation’s health. The results can also

help develop ways to support people psychologically and socially during the outbreak.

If you have the time and/or inclination to take part, please do.

What’s it like for you

What do you think of the poem And People Stayed Home/ In the Time of Pandemic? An unrealistic outcome or one you hope for? If you were to write a poem about your experience of lockdown, what would it be? Share your thoughts or questions in the comments below or alternatively email them to me (contact form in sidebar).  

If you are struggling on dealing with the impact of lockdown and would like support, have a look at how we can work together and get in touch for a free no obligation consultation.

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© Copyright Barbara Babcock 2020

How to improve your mental health with five a day

How to improve your mental health with five a day

What do you to improve your mental health? Like we are encouraged to have five types of vegetables and fruit every day, what are your five go to activities to maintain or improve your mental health?

Like we are encouraged to have 5 fruit and veg a day, what are your five go-to activities to maintain or improve your #mentalhealth? Read more here #5aday #FiveADayForMentalHealth Click To Tweet

Our mental health is being tested right now

What with everything going on in the world – all the change you’ve had to deal with, the unknowns, the uncertainty, the loss of your normal life which I wrote about here – your mental health is being tested and you may be feeling the strain. That is a normal response.

So focusing on improving your mental health is important

Like we have a fridge, freezer and cupboards for our food, do you have a mental health cupboard for all the activities that can improve your mental health? Is that cupboard well stocked or is it a bit bare?

A woman is in her kitchen. She has opened her mental health cupboard and there are only a few items in it. A book on cooking, some yarn for knitting and crochet and a bottle of something to drink. She is saying, "My mental health cupboard is looking rather bare." The caption reads: How well stocked is your mental health cupboard? Are you giving yourself five-a-day to improve your mental health?

Time to do a stock take of your mental health cupboard

If your cupboard is well stocked, a stock take will remind you of what is there that you can use.

If you haven’t tended to this cupboard recently, now’s the time to open it, see what’s there and add to it.

And if you don’t have a mental health cupboard, now’s the time to create one. A shelf will also do.

What five-a-day can be in your mental health cupboard?

Here’s a not exhaustive list of activities that can be in your mental health cupboard. You can choose your five-a-day to nourish and improve your mental health from here.

  • Letting yourself feel sad/upset/confused etc when you feel that rather than suppressing it (remember, you don’t have to unpack and live here)
  • Noticing and acknowledging how you feel – the good, the not-so-good and the downright ugly
  • Reaching out for support – coaching, therapy, peer support, good friend, cuddle your pet
  • 5 minutes practicing mindfulness – paying attention to what you’re doing, feeling, thinking and/or your breath without judgement
  • Setting an intention for your day – What you will give to your day to make it good enough for you
  • Reminding yourself that you are enough as you are right now
  • Patting yourself on the back when you feel you’ve done well at something
  • Showing yourself compassion when you notice you’re beating yourself up or something doesn’t go to plan
  • Noting three things that went well or ok enough in your day
  • Noting what you’re thankful for
  • Listening to birdsong
  • Gardening
  • Meditation
  • Yoga
  • Walking/rolling in nature
  • Exercise
  • Running/ Sport
  • Colouring
  • Painting
  • Knitting, crochet, embroidery, needlepoint
  • Drawing
  • Singing
  • Playing a musical instrument
  • Listening to music
  • Photography
  • Journaling
  • Reading
  • Writing stories, poetry, articles, blogging
  • Cooking a nice meal
  • Baking
  • Sewing
  • Carpentry
  • Developing ways to help, nurture and reassure yourself
  • Spending time going after something you really want for yourself whatever this may be – new job/career, writing a book, spending more time with your children, a qualification, developing a new hobby, returning to an old hobby, developing a mindfulness practice, whatever
  • Doing something kind for someone/ helping others
  • Spending time with pets
  • Having your favourite tea/coffee

There's a woman in her kitchen stocking her mental health cupboard. It is looking much more full. The woman is saying, "My mental health cupboard is looking more full. I've got choices!" There are three bags on the counter she has been unpacking: mental health, soul health and heart health. Nearby is a bowl of fruit and above it a sign hangs on the wall which says 'Remember your 5-a-day'. This is alluding to the fact that just as we eat five portions of fruit and vegetables a day for our physical health, we also need to remember to take five-a-day for our heart, mind and soul. The caption of the picture reads: Make sure your mental health cupboard is stocked full.

Your five-a-day can contain the mundane tasks too

Doing the everyday mundane tasks in life like making your bed, tidying, paying bills, grocery shopping, etc. Many people think this isn’t part of self-care but actually they are. They help to keep your life going.

I start my day with making my bed. It’s a nice and easy win and looking at a tidy bed makes me smile.

The everyday mundane tasks relating to you are also important like brushing your teeth, getting dressed even if it’s slobby lounge wear, etc. These small tasks are an easy way to show yourself that you matter.

Just make sure that your five-a-day isn’t consumed by the mundane tasks. There is a case for making room for other activities which nourish you on a heart and soul level and help you stay resilient.

Sometimes though this can be hard

If you have children who need to be home schooled, fed, played with, washed, cuddled, etc. Or you’re caring for someone who has many needs. Sometimes the mundane tasks occupy your entire day. And at the end you don’t have much energy left over for yourself.

That’s a tough place to be day after day. Then it’s about only focusing on the most essential mundane tasks. And catching any (and all) short periods of quiet and calm time to do something for yourself.

The everyday mundane tasks relating to you are important like brushing your teeth, getting dressed even if it’s just slobby lounge wear, etc. These small tasks are an easy way to show yourself that you matter. #5aday… Click To Tweet

And that is what this is all about – demonstrating to yourself that you matter

Taking conscious action to nourish and improve your mental health is just as important as the action you take to nourish your physical body. It is you demonstrating to yourself that all of you matters.

So what will your five-a-day today be?

An original inspirational quote by Return to Wellness: "What will your five-a-day be today to nourish your health, mind and soul?" The point is just as we ensure we eat five portions of fruit and vegetables for our physical health, what five things can you do everyday to improve your mental health?

What’s it like for you?

What are your go-to five-a-day to nourish and improve your mental health? What’s in your mental health cupboard that isn’t in the list above? Share your thoughts or questions in the comments below or alternatively email them to me (contact form in sidebar).  

If you are living with a challenging health issue or are caring for someone who is, and would like support on any of the issues discussed here, have a look at how we can work together and get in touch for a free no obligation consultation.

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Know someone who would benefit from reading this blog, or you just want to spread the ideas, click on the icons to share.

© Copyright Barbara Babcock 2020

How to survive lockdown: Advice from people with chronic illness

How to survive lockdown: Advice from people with chronic illness

Learning how to survive lockdown is something we are all doing right now. Right around the world. Based on my experience working as a coach supporting people living with challenging chronic illnesses, I think they have a lot to teach us on how to do that. Because many of them have been in a form of lockdown well before coronavirus came along.

I am thinking about people living with energy limiting illnesses like Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/ Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Some may have been housebound for years.

Others may not be housebound all the time and may able to lead what looks to be a normal life, but they have to deal with issues of isolation and/or uncertainty of relapse. Such as people living with diabetes, other conditions that have unpredictable fluctuating symptoms like chronic pain and fatigue, and people who have/had cancer.

Living in isolation from family and friends and not able to go about our pre-coronavirus daily routines can be hard. So can living with prolonged uncertainty. Right now, we don’t know when this lockdown will end. But also the anxiety of reduced or not much income is really stressful too. And getting needed groceries, medications and more.

So here I share the ten things we can learn from people living with chronic illness on how to survive a lockdown. They are in no particular order and it’s not an exhaustive list.

A woman is seated on a chair experiencing anxiety. She is asking herself, "How am I going to survive lockdown?" The caption reads: How do you plan to survive lockdown? And maybe even thrive?

How to survive lockdown

1. Look after yourself

When you get a really challenging health issue, you quickly learn that your body is the only one you’ve got. And you need to do what you can to stay as healthy as you can. Get good sleep, get outside to get some exercise once a day, drink lots of water, and eat nourishing food all help.

The same applies to all of us now. Including following social distancing and washing your hands. Because people living with challenging health issues are that much more vulnerable if they get COVID-19. Doing our bit to keep ourselves healthy is also a good thing for the people around us.

2. Listen to your body

Becoming attuned to the sensations you feel in your body is a key skill in learning how to manage the symptoms of a challenging health issue. This helps you identify what triggers symptoms, when you may be getting a flare and if the measures you are taking to manage your symptoms are working or not.

Learning to listen to your body is equally important if you do not have any major health issues. It will allow you to spot signs of stress and anxiety and therefore manage and alleviate them sooner.

A quote, source unknown, about listening to your body: "If you listen to your body when it whispers, you won't have to hear it scream." This is important when you're dealing with a challenging health issue like COVID-19, even if you don't have it. Listening to your body is a key how to survive lockdown tip.

3. Manage the impact of stress

Managing the impact of stress is so important when living with a challenging health issue. Because stress can exacerbate symptoms and that can limit what you’re able to do.

You cannot prevent stress from happening so your focus has to be on how you manage the impact of stress. Like with the coronavirus pandemic. This is a key how to survive lockdown tip.

You cannot control that coronavirus has happened. So worrying about that is energy that isn’t being well spent. Focus your energy instead on what you can influence and directly control. This helps you to move through stressful situations and lessen their negative impact on you.

4. Focus on the essential activities

When you’re living with symptoms like chronic pain and/or fatigue, there are many days when you can’t do very much at all. So you have to focus on the essential activities. And what is considered essential can change from day to day depending on how you are.

Some days you’ll have the energy to wash, cook a meal and do another activity like read a book or write a blog post. Other days, you may only be able to venture to the toilet and the fridge because your body isn’t capable of doing anything else.

For those of you who do not have health issues, the advice is not to overload yourself with activities, things to do, etc. If the essential is making sure there is food on the table, you and your kids get some exercise, you get some work done and the kids do a bit of schooling, that is enough. You don’t need to become an expert teacher for your kids or come out of lockdown with a toned and super fit body. Go gently.

How to survive #lockdown – Tip 4 – Focus on the essential activities. You don’t need to become an expert teacher for your kids or come out of lockdown with a toned and super fit body. Go gently #wellness Read the other tips here Click To Tweet

5. Be prepared to adapt

When you’re living with a health issue where your symptoms fluctuate on a day-to-day basis, you have to learn how to adapt your schedule, what you can do on any given day and even how you approach the activities you do. Sometimes you have to make difficult choices like cancel an engagement to see friends. Or figure out how to cook meals that don’t take as much preparation.

People with disabilities often have to adapt to an environment that hasn’t been built to take into account their needs. They have to constantly adapt to obtain some sense of inclusion.

Living in lockdown means we have to adapt a lot. No, we won’t always like having to do that. But being willing to find ways to adapt what we need to and to experiment can make life easier. And that means less stress. Which is a really good thing right now.

6. Proactively manage the impact of isolation

A sense of isolation can quickly set in when you’re living with a challenging health issue where you cannot go out much and fluctuating symptoms mean you have to cancel plans at the last minute. It’s hard enough when you’re the only one amongst your family and friends who has the illness you have. It gets even harder when you can’t see family and friends much and friendships drift away as a result.

The virtual world is often the only connection people who are housebound due to their chronic illness have with the outside world. And they very much value this connection.

The virtual world may not be the ideal for everyone but right now it’s something. Use it. And when using it, make sure to focus on the good aspects of using it – catching up with family and friends, supporting one another, doing activities together. If you only focus on how much you hate it, then that could contribute to an increased sense of loneliness.

How to survive #lockdown – Tip 6 – Proactively manage the impact of isolation and loneliness. Get connected in the virtual world. It may not be the ideal, but now it’s something. #wellness Read the other tips here Click To Tweet

7. Your support network is key

So many people living with challenging health issues have told me how important social media is to them. It enables them to make friends and have a support network.

Many of us are social beings and crave connection. This is important at any time and especially important now that we often cannot see our loved ones, friends and work colleagues in person.

Your support network, even if many of them you can only see virtual is vital. Make time for them. Build your network if you have to. It’s important to think about this in respect to your partner/spouse. One person cannot meet all of our needs. Thinking about who may not be on your team but you would like them to be and making that happen can help. The same thing goes for children. They need their (virtual) support teams too.

Remember, pets are definitely part of your support team.

And sometimes, it’s necessary to let unhealthy relationships go. Often during stressful times we learn who are friends are and who we can and cannot count on.

A woman is sitting on a pouff and her walking sticks are leaning against it. She is petting her dog and saying, "You're definitely part of my healthcare team!" The point is that your pet(s) is a key member of your support team. And play an important role in helping you learn how to survive lockdown.

8. Learning to live with uncertainty is key too

Talk to anyone who has been through cancer treatment and now has no evidence of disease. They live with uncertainty every single day. People who have had a heart attack or stroke at a younger expected age or have another kind of illness that can relapse live with something similar.

They live with the will it-won’t it come back. Will I get more disabled or not? Will I survive it or not? It’s like a constant shadow. Sometimes the shadow fades a bit but it never quite leaves. These people have had to become an expert at living with uncertainty. And like you now in having to live with the impact of coronavirus and lockdown, they didn’t have that choice. It was foisted on them.

Learning to live with uncertainty is not always easy. Because uncertainty means you don’t know what you don’t know, which means you can feel out of control and powerlessness. We humans hate that feeling. Which leads me to my next point.

9. Appreciate the small things in the here and now

When you’re living with a challenging health issue that brings less choice, uncertainty and a higher degree of isolation into your life, you learn to appreciate the small things in the here and now. Birdsong, the sun streaming through the window, a pretty flower in your garden or a vase, a cup of tea, a favourite tv programme. Because it’s important to have good in your life, whatever size that takes. It balances out the rubbish things which happen.

The same thing applies to everyone who is now learning how to survive lockdown. What are the small things you are grateful for?

10. Having a purpose and routine

When you’re living with a challenging health issue, it’s not uncommon to feel like you no longer have a purpose in life. You end up having to adjust what you mean by that and it may not be an easy process to go through.

What I find that people ultimately learn is what matters is how they define their purpose and that size doesn’t matter. And not to define their purpose according to others’ or societal standards.  

You still very much have a purpose during these times. You may need to adjust it and work to realistic standards you set. Also, having a routine to your day can help you keep your sanity and ensure you do activities that align with your purpose.

A woman is sitting in a chair focusing on her breathing. She is thinking, "I'm going to take 5 minutes everyday just to focus on my breathing." When thinking about how to survive lockdown, she reckoned that having a small purpose of taking 5 minutes to focus on herself was the best thing she could do. The caption makes the point that your purpose during lockdown only needs to be right for you. Size doesn't matter.

What’s it like for you?

How did the advice on how to survive lockdown resonate with you? What are you doing that is helping you to survive lockdown? What are you finding difficult? Share your thoughts or questions in the comments below or alternatively email them to me (contact form in sidebar).  

If you are living with a challenging health issue or are caring for someone who is, and would like support on any of the issues discussed here, have a look at how we can work together and get in touch for a free no obligation consultation.

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Know someone who would benefit from reading this blog, or you just want to spread the ideas, click on the icons to share.

© Copyright Barbara Babcock 2020

Feeling out-of-sorts during lockdown? This is why

Feeling out-of-sorts during lockdown? This is why

You may be wondering why you’re feeling out-of-sorts during lockdown. In the past few weeks you may have been feeling lethargic, sleeping a lot, or not enough. Maybe you feel really down and sad about everything or your anxiety feels a lot higher. You’re not your normal self.

But you know you’ve got a roof over your head, some food in the fridge, enough loo roll, you’ve got the basics. So why is this out-of-sorts feeling dragging on?

It’s not surprising you’re feeling the way you do. Given what you, your family, the country and the world are currently dealing with in this time of coronavirus, your responses are a normal reaction.

I want to explain four reasons why you’re feeling out-of-sorts during lockdown

These reasons aren’t the whole of your story. There’s a lot else which could be contributing to you feeling the way you do. But these reasons are common to many of us right now no matter where we live in the world.

Knowing the why, even if you can’t change it, helps you to recognise how you’re feeling and name it. That knowledge in itself can help you feel more calm and able to focus on what you can control. And we all want some of that right now.

A woman, who is small in stature is looking at people representing Uncertainty, Change, Loss and Less Freedom. She is saying, 'You're all so big!' Uncertainty is saying, 'Hey! We're moving in! Don't worry about not having room. We fit anywhere!' Less Freedom is saying, 'I need to break free.' Change looks a bit hyper. Loss is crying. The point is life in the time of coronavirus is very much about living with uncertainty, change, loss and less freedom. That will explain in part why you're feeling out-of-sorts during lockdown. Visit www.returntowellness.co.uk to learn how to change that.

Why you’re feeling out-of-sorts during lockdown

1. You have less freedom

In an effort to contain coronavirus, the government has placed restrictions on what you can do, when and with whom. You have less choice and hence less freedom. And freedom is highly prized in our culture. We often don’t like being told what to do and what we can’t do.

Although the government restrictions on moving out and about in the world are necessary to contain #coronavirus, for some people dealing with the loss of choice and freedom can be very difficult. We free much prize freedom in our… Click To Tweet

2. You have shed loads of uncertainty in your life now

Will I or a family member get COVID-19? How would we be affected?

Will I be able to do X, Y or Z later on this year? Maybe that is to get married, go on a special holiday, have a birthday party for a special birthday, graduate from university, etc.

Will I be able to return to school/university as normal in the Autumn?

Will my relationship survive this lockdown?

How long will this lockdown last?

Will I get my bonus at work?

What will the world be like after all this?

You probably have a lot of questions like this swirling around your head about all the unknowns.

We humans don’t like uncertainty. Because lack of certainty feels like loss of control. And you can feel powerless as a result.

A woman is sitting on a chair. She is frowning, looking uncertain and asking herself the questions: "What am I to do? How can I feel better? Why do I feel this way? When will it stop? Who can help. I feel so out of control." Next to her is standing Uncertainty. It has its hand on the back of her chair and is saying, 'I'm your new friend.' This is what it's like to live with uncertainty. Check out www.returntowellness.co.uk for advice on how to do that and keep your sanity particularly if you're feeling out-of-sorts during lockdown.

3. You have a shed load of change to deal with too

Maybe you’ve had to learn how to use Zoom for work, or to stay in touch with family and friends.

Maybe you are self-employed and have had to find a way to get your business online if that is even possible.

Or maybe you’ve lost your job, you’re the breadwinner in your family and you’ve had to quickly find new work. If there is new work to be had.

Or figure out how to work from home, deal with feeling isolated if you live on your own, or how to home school your children and do your job at the same time.

If you had a choice prior to all this happening, you may not have chosen to learn and do what you now have to. This kind of change can feel enforced and unwelcome. It can be hard to deal with.

The reason it can be hard dealing with all the #change during #coronavirus and #lockdown is because it’s not a change we sought for ourselves. It’s been forced on us. Click To Tweet

4. You’re dealing with a lot of loss

There are all sorts of losses you and everyone else are dealing with. Loss of

  • Your normal routine
  • Seeing family and friends
  • Income and what that enables for you
  • Your business and livelihood
  • Access to your favourite activities
  • Needed medical treatment
  • Holiday
  • Taking exams
  • Graduating from sixth form or university
  • Certainty
  • Family, friends, acquaintances even clients or customers due to COVID-19
  • And more

And you could not have prevented a lot of that loss. Cue that powerless feeling again. It’s no wonder you could be feeling out-of-sorts during lockdown.

We are each in our own way dealing with lack of freedom, unwelcome change, shedloads of uncertainty, feeling out of control and powerless, and loss

That’s a lot for you to hold. That’s a lot for any one country to deal with. Right now, the world is holding this.

There is a picture of a world map. On it is written north, south, east, west in the relevant places. Also written on the map is uncertainty, less freedom, loss and change. A woman is also holding balls representing uncertainty, change, loss and less freedom. Her hands and arms are very full with them. This represents what you and the world are dealing with now during this time of coronavirus and can explain why you're feeling out-of-sorts during lockdown. Read the blog on www.returntowellness.co.uk to learn what you can do to cope effectively.

You, and the world, are experiencing grief

Many of us are feeling out-of-sorts during lockdown. Waking up in terror in the middle of the night, feeling intense overwhelm, wanting to hide away from it all, these are normal responses to the intense enormity of what you and the world are dealing with.

They key thing is not to unpack and live there. It’s about how you acknowledge and move through the terror, overwhelm and grief in a healthy way psychologically, physically and socially.

I can and will say more on that but I am going to leave it here as what I’ve written is plenty for now.

In the meantime, tell me what support would help you get through these times

What else would help you manage that feeling out-of-sorts during lockdown and get through it?

It may mean feeling more feeling more in control, feeling more balanced or experiencing. It might be about how to deal with the intensity of living with family members and/or dealing with kids 24/7. Or trying to balance work and home schooling and keep your sanity. Just want to hang out with like-minded people online? Deal with whatever is concerning you right now?

You may want 1-1 support, work in a group, online workshops, more blogs, online chats, something else?

I’d love to know so Return to Wellness® can target its support in a way that would be meaningful for you. Drop your thoughts in the comments below or get in touch via the contact form. I look forward to hearing from you.

What support do you want to help you cope with all the uncertainty, change, etc that you’re dealing with right now? Share your thoughts here #coronavirus #COVD-19 #lockdown Click To Tweet

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© Copyright Barbara Babcock 2020

How to challenge yourself as a way to change yourself

How to challenge yourself as a way to change yourself

When you want yourself and your circumstances to be different, you need to figure out how to challenge yourself to change yourself. To do something different so you get what you’re seeking. As the saying goes:

If you keep doing what you’ve always done, you’ll keep on getting what you’ve always got.

Henry Ford

Doing what you’ve always done needs to change. But sometimes it isn’t easy to figure out what to do differently. Particularly if you have no experience regarding the issue, like figuring out how to live well with the impact of a challenging health issue.

So I want to share an example of how a coaching client dealt with an issue which is common among people I work with, and how we came up with some ways she could challenge herself to change. I also share what it is about coaching that helps.

How to challenge yourself as a way to change yourself

Let’s call the client Trudy. It’s not her real name. I have her permission to share this with you.

Trudy’s wanted to make sense of her willingness to take responsibility whether it is hers to take or not so she could make different choices going forwards. She described taking responsibility as a habitual knee jerk reaction.

There are pros and cons to this. When you take responsibility for what is yours to manage, it’s a way of you meeting your needs.

BUT, if you take responsibility for something that isn’t yours to do, then you can end up expending lots of energy and you may not get the results you’re seeking. It can end up being wasted energy. And if you are living with an energy limiting health issue, you don’t have lots of energy to waste like that.

If you are living with an energy limiting illness, you have to watch what you take responsibility for. It can be draining to take responsibility for people and situations when it’s not your responsibility to take. Read what you can… Click To Tweet

Also, if other people don’t appreciate you for taking responsibility when it was theirs to take, that can further compound things for you in an unhealthy way. You can end up feeling very under-appreciated.

Trudy also identified that when she did not feel heard, she would ‘just shut up’. She described this as also being a habitual behaviour and linked to taking responsibility.

How coaching helps: As the coach, I give you space to think through and talk about your issue. I’ll help you find the words to explain your situation and how you feel if that’s needed. Also, I ask thought provoking questions which help you realise the subtleties around your issue, both the good and the no-so-good.

Get curious about when, how, with whom and why the behaviour occurs

Once you know the behaviour you want to change, dissect when it happens, who else is involved (if anyone), what you do, and why.

Trudy gave some examples when, how and why her willingness to take responsibility behaviour occurs. She also identified what was helpful about what she did and what was not.

Trudy’s kind and considerate nature is a good thing to have. I offered that sometimes when we care so much we end up willingly taking responsibility for what isn’t ours can be excessive caring. There’s a shadow side to our good qualities. Too much of a good thing can end up becoming a not-so-good thing.

How coaching helps: The other thing I do as a coach is point out (gently) how you get in your own way, but also your strengths and how you are helping yourself. In my experience, clients often find this new awareness very empowering as this ah-ha realisation opens up new choices.

A woman is sitting down looking at the issue she wants to change. There are questions surrounding the issue which are: When does the issue occur? What happens? Is anyone else involved? Why does the issue happen? What are you doing just before? How are you feeling? What are your triggers? What beliefs and assumptions underpin your triggers? The aim of these questions is to help you get curious about the behaviours you want to change as that can help you find the key to changing them.

Getting curious can help you pinpoint your triggers

Your trigger is what gets you to engage in this habitual behaviour you want to change.

Trudy identified that she has a real caring nature and a desire to help others. She also said she feels a sense of responsibility not to hurt others. In fact, she has to ‘avoid hurting others at all costs’.

She said this was driving the willingness to take responsibility even in situations where the responsibility isn’t hers to take.

I reflected back to Trudy that avoiding hurting others at all costs sounded very strong and I could see how that could drive a willingness to take responsibility even if the responsibility is not yours to take.

How coaching helps: If something comes across as rather strong or otherwise, I reflect that back to the client. This is a form of feedback where the aim is to raise the client’s awareness. I pick this up through listening to what the client says, how s/he says it, what they don’t say and even listening to the non-verbal aspects of the conversation. Coaches are trained to listen at a deeper level than the level people usually listen at in everyday conversation.

Discover the beliefs which may no longer be serving you

Underpinning your triggers are often beliefs and assumptions about how life works and your role in it.

The beliefs underpinning Trudy’s willingness to take on responsibility were:

“If I don’t take responsibility, I will end up hurting people and THAT must be avoided at all costs.”

And

“It’s ok if it’s a cost to me if I take responsibility, even if the responsibility isn’t mine to take.”

How coaching helps: Sometimes we hold beliefs that no longer serve us. And these beliefs can be driving your behaviours. When you explain what you do that isn’t working, a coach may ask you the following questions to help you uncover beliefs that no longer serve you:

  • What do you have to believe about yourself?
  • What do you believe about others involved? (If there are other people involved.)
  • What do you have to believe in general about the situation?

Sometimes we hold beliefs that no longer serve us. To uncover those beliefs, when you explain what you do that isn’t working, a #coach may ask you: What do you believe about yourself/ others/ the situation for that belief to be… Click To Tweet

So how do you challenge yourself as a way to change yourself?

This is one way how you can challenge yourself to change yourself. There are many others.

First, look at what pisses you off in relation to your beliefs

It’s usually the opposite of what you would do in a given situation. What pisses you off goes against what you consider important or good to do.

Trudy has this very caring and considerate nature, so I wasn’t surprised to hear her say that she gets upset when people litter, put their feet up on the seat opposite on the train or drive inconsiderately. In her eyes, these people weren’t considering others around them. They were doing the opposite of what Trudy values.

How coaching helps: The coach will continue to ask questions, listen deeply and reflect back what their noticing. For example, with Trudy, I reflected back how the behaviour of these people did not seem to align to her caring and considerate nature.

Second, do what pisses you off

Do the opposite of what you normally do. Engage in the behaviours others do that you disapprove of.

The thought of that is challenging!

For Trudy, I gave her an experiment to do. I asked her to put her feet up on the seat opposite the next time she was on a train. But she could take her shoes off and opt to do it at a time when it wasn’t rush hour.

This purpose of the experiment as I explained to Trudy was to challenge her to consider herself and her needs and be less focused on others. I asked her to notice how she felt as she did what she didn’t approve of. And to notice what it was like to take up space. Remember above she said when she didn’t feel heard, she would tend to stop talking. When you don’t make yourself heard, you take up less space so to speak.

How coaching helps: The coach may give you experiments and homework to do in between sessions. This is actually where a lot of the power of coaching lies. What you do with what you’ve learned from the sessions. You and the coach may also formulate your experiments and homework together or you may come up with them on your own during the session.

You can be choice-ful in how you choose to challenge yourself

Notice the parameters of the experiment. Trudy could take off her shoes before putting her feet on the chair opposite. And she didn’t have to do this experiment in rush hour.

I was asking her to go outside her comfort zone. But not to the extent that someone else couldn’t sit down because of her actions. Thinking back to Trudy’s belief, no one was going to ‘get hurt’. That could have been too much too soon. She was still able to exercise consideration and care.

Your purpose is to challenge yourself to change yourself. Not to overwhelm yourself with so much change you end up not being able to make any change.

How coaching helps: Challenge is part of coaching. You come to coaching to seek support in changing something about yourself and your life and challenge can help that along. A coach will challenge you in a healthy and safe way and be there to support you through that process of change so you don’t have to do it alone.

There's a picture of a woman on a train reading and she has her feet on the empty chair in front of her. Her shoes are on the floor so she's not wearing them. The woman would never do that before as she considered it very inconsiderate. However, she was so considerate of other people to the point it was at her own expense. So she is experimenting looking after her own needs and comfort by doing something she used to disapprove of. She is finding it comfortable. The point is you can be choice-ful in how you choose to challenge yourself as a way to change yourself. You could do the opposite of the behaviour you want to change or a version of the opposite.

The aim is to increase your flexibility and range in what you choose to do and why

Sometimes you may work to a value or belief you consider important to such a degree it doesn’t actually help you. But by doing something different, you increase your range so to speak. You’re no longer confined to one way of being but have more flexibility in how you deal with people and situations.

This is a way to safely challenge yourself as a way to change yourself.

What’s it like for you?

Think of something you wish to change about yourself. What small experiment can you give yourself to help you change yourself? When you have successfully changed something, what was it you did? Share your thoughts or questions in the comments below or alternatively email them to me (contact form in sidebar).  

If you are living with a challenging health issue or are caring for someone who is, and would like support on any of the issues discussed here, have a look at how we can work together and get in touch for a free no obligation consultation.

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© Copyright Barbara Babcock 2020

How to fall in love with yourself after illness

How to fall in love with yourself after illness

Learning how to fall in love with yourself after illness or injury felt like the most appropriate topic to write about given Valentine’s Day is this week. We see so much about being in a couple at this time of year, but how are we in being with ourselves? And what about after a challenging illness or injury which has changed your body?

Learning how to fall in love with yourself after an illness or injury can feel difficult. It’s not uncommon to feel like your body betrayed you, or you have this illness that is like an invader you are trying to fight, or you’re frustrated with how your body has changed and what you can no longer do as a result, or you live with the fear of relapse.

A woman is sitting on an ottoman thinking, 'My body has changed so much I don't recognise it anymore. I'm afraid to do anything. I've changed so much. I don't like myself.' It's understandable how you can fall out of love with yourself due to illness or injury. So you have to learn how to fall in love with yourself after illness or injury.

How can you fall in love with yourself after illness or injury with all that going on?

I believe you can. Because I’ve helped myself to do that and have helped others too. So I know it can be done. And I share an exercise here to help you do that.

This exercise is a bit different. It asks you to be with yourself in a way we may not always do in our society because we are rushing around, thinking what to do next, etc, etc. This exercise is about slowing down and listening to your heart/ gut/ intuition/ soul, whatever you call that part of yourself which may or may not have much of a voice in your life.

I’d like to acknowledge Heart of Business whose work around acknowledging your needs when in business for yourself inspired me to write this blog.

An exercise on how to fall in love with yourself after illness or injury

Have you felt like you have fallen out of love with yourself due to an #illness or #injury? Want to learn how to love yourself again? Then read this blog. #selflove #selfcare Click To Tweet

Make sure you’re comfortable enough. You can stand, sit or even lay down for this exercise. And you have a bit of quiet time to yourself with hopefully no or minimal interruptions.

Remember a time when someone asked you, ‘How are you doing?’ or ‘How are you feeling?’ or ‘Can you go out with us today?’ with that questioning look in their eye and you just didn’t want to give them the honest answer about how tough things really are for you. Or maybe you tried to do something but due to all the changes you have experienced, you struggled and felt frustrated. Or it could be one of those times when you feel hopeless that your circumstances will change for the better.

Just notice how you felt in that moment and what you wanted. If it felt uncomfortable, hard or you felt like you had to give people the answer they wanted to hear, annoyance or something else, just be with what you felt at that time.

What do you notice?

What are you feeling? If that feeling is a sensation in your body, where in your body do you feel it? What is the sensation like? A knot, waves, a pounding, a numbing sensation, something else?

As you feel whatever you feel, ask yourself:

Is love available for me here?

What is the purpose of that question?

It’s to raise our awareness of how we are or aren’t tapping into our own self-love when we may most need it. This quote explains it well.

“When you find the love, you find yourself.

The secret is in the love. You are the love, not another.

Everything is in the love, and everyone needs the love.

When you have the knowledge of the love, you feel peace

in your heart.

The jewels are inside you.”

Music of the Soul, by Sufi Sheikh sidi Sa’id al-jamal

Think of love as a jewel, which is inside of you.

A woman is standing holding her heart. In her heart is a diamond. She is saying, 'My love for me is a diamond.' Love is something which you can give to yourself. So think of love as a jewel which is inside of you. You can have love be any kind of jewel you want. This is about learning how to fall in love with yourself after illness or injury.

Ask yourself that question again: Is love available for me here?

Notice again how you feel as you ask yourself that question.

When you ask yourself that question in a moment of discomfort, your needs can feel heightened.

Then ask yourself:

What is it I truly want for myself? What am I yearning for?

An original quote by Return to Wellness. When learning how to fall in love with yourself after illness or injury, some key questions you need to ask yourself are: What is it I truly want for myself? What am I yearning for?

Sometimes what people often want is to go back to the person they were before their illness or injury

That is understandable. After a serious illness or injury, you are a changed person.

You may yearn for that or something else: acceptance of your situation, a person to love you as you are now, understanding from the people around you, something else.

If you yearn for something physical – and it could be anything like money, a new wheelchair, a new job, whatever – ask yourself:

And if I were to get that, what would that give me? How would I feel then?

Often times it is a quality like acceptance or acknowledgement, self-compassion, certainty, strength, truth, belonging, or something else.

This is a need you have

Just be with yourself and notice you have a need without any expectation of changing it. This isn’t about judging the need as bad or good. It’s also not about judging yourself as less than for having this need. And it’s not about collapsing into the need in a way that depletes you. It’s about acknowledging the need. It is what it is.

As you sit (or stand or lay down), open yourself up to receiving whatever it is you need. So if it’s acknowledgement of your situation, open yourself up to receiving acknowledgement.

This may sound kind of abstract. You may be wondering…

How do I open myself up to receiving what I need?

There are different ways you can do this. How you do it may be different from someone else and that’s ok.

Some people like to physically arch their back a bit so their chest is open and shoulders are back. They then consciously think of receiving acknowledgement for example. Or acceptance. Or self-compassion or whatever it is you need.

Or you may skip the physical gesture of arching your back to open your chest and just consciously think of receiving whatever quality you need and notice how that feels in your body.

Hint: I recommend you focus not just on the thinking aspect, but also how it feels in your body. This helps to make change happen because you are doing that on different levels – the body and mind – which is a holistic approach to change.

I like to think of a watering can above me that pours the quality I need over me. Like in this picture here.

One of the things to do to fall in love with yourself after illness or injury is to give yourself whatever it is you need. Often times this is a quality like acceptance, acknowledgement, self-compassion, love. One way of doing this is to think about a part of you showering yourself with that quality. In this picture the self-compassionate part of the woman holding a green watering can high above the head of another woman (who is her actually) and she is showering her in love hearts saying, 'It's time for your self-compassion shower! Oh, and I put your self-criticism in the rubbish.' The other woman is sitting in a chair holding hearts and is enjoying her self-compassion shower.

You may imagine someone real or imagined giving you what you need.

You may journal it.

Or you may simply write down the word of the quality you need. Or draw a picture of it. Or make a collage.

When you do this, you are not waiting for someone else in real life to give you what you need. You are actually giving it to yourself.

Practice receiving what you need

When you start doing something new, which this may be for you, you may wonder if you’re doing it right, or wrong, or is it working. Those questions are natural as we can feel a little uncomfortable when we do something new. But you can put all those questions to one side.

Just have a go and notice what it’s like for you.

I encourage you to make this a practice you do several times a week, daily even. This increases your familiarity and comfort level with the exercise. It also helps to make the practice of giving yourself what you need more automatic.

A good time to practice it is when you feel yourself wishing for and wanting things to be different. In those moments, ask yourself if love is available for you here, what you are yearning for and open yourself to receiving what you need.

More important tips on how to fall in love with yourself after illness or injury

It helps to hold the intention ‘I can love myself again’ and ‘I’ll take action to help make that happen’.

Then take action to make that happen. This can be in addition to the exercise above. And these can be small actions of self-care: spending time in nature, setting an intention for your day, consciously noticing what goes well for you, asking a family member or friend to spend time with you, a bath, a cup of tea from your favourite mug, journaling, doing a favourite activity, etc. Whatever healthy act of self-care that you enjoy.

When you practice self-care, you are saying to yourself and the world, ‘I matter’ and ‘my needs are valid’.

When you practice #selfcare, you are saying to yourself and the world, 'I matter' and 'my needs are valid'. #wellness #chronicillness Click To Tweet

Nurture your relationship with yourself daily. Be mindful of self-criticism, calling yourself not-very-nice names, relying on others to feed your self-worth and pleasing people.

Also be mindful to surround yourself with people who support and love you. Keep in mind they won’t be perfect at it and you may have to help them to help you.

Why you must fall in love with yourself after illness or injury

Because the most important relationship you have is with yourself.

Also, when you love yourself, you implicitly give the message to others, ‘Yes, I am worth loving.’ And this helps your sense of belonging.

The greatest reason why you must fall in love with yourself after illness or injury is because the most important relationship you have is with yourself. This is an original quote by Return To Wellness.

What’s it like for you?

How have you found this exercise in self-love? What else is helping or has helped you to fall in love with yourself after illness or injury (even if it was a loved one’s)? Share your thoughts or questions in the comments below or alternatively email them to me (contact form in sidebar).  

If you are living with a challenging health issue or are caring for someone who is, and would like support on any of the issues discussed here, have a look at how we can work together and get in touch for a free no obligation consultation.

Pass it forward

Know someone who would benefit from reading this blog, or you just want to spread the ideas, click on the icons to share.

© Copyright Barbara Babcock 2020

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